House Environmental Committee Moves Oil & Gas, Solar Bills
The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee reported out bills this week to increase minimum oil and gas royalties and provide more protection for ground and surface waters from drilling as well as a bill to promote solar energy systems.
The bills include:
-- House Bill 2213 (George-D-Clearfield) amending the Oil and Gas Act to further provide for ground and surface water protection (amended);
-- House Bill 2214 (George) providing for minimum oil and gas royalties; and
-- House Bill 2234 (Houghton-D-Chester) eliminating deed restrictions on installation of solar energy systems (amended).
“House Bill 2213 – the Land and Water Protection Act -- recognizes the threats to our natural resources and toll on our infrastructure inherent in Marcellus Shale gas drilling,” said Rep. George (D-Clearfield), the bill’s sponsor. “The committee recognized that Pennsylvania must keep pace with the challenges and costs already being encountered throughout much of Pennsylvania.”
Approved on a 17-9 vote, House Bill 2213 would:
-- Require a permit before a well can be developed;
-- Bolster the state Department of Environmental Protection’s authority to deny well permits because of outstanding violations and to suspend drilling for serious violations;
-- Update set-back requirements for water sources and high-quality and exceptional value streams;
-- Require the DEP to inspect Marcellus well sites during crucial drilling phases;
-- Increase potential civil penalties from $25,000 to $100,000 and potential daily fines for continuous violations from $1,000 to $10,500 a day;
-- Extend to 2,500 feet, from 1,000 feet, the presumed liability of a well polluting a water supply;
-- Require full disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing – fracking – of the natural gas from the earth;
-- Update bonding requirements to cover the costs of decommissioning a well;
-- Clarify local governments’ authority to regulate oil and gas activities.
The committee also approved Rep. George’s House Bill 2214, the Lessor’s Royalty Protection Act, which would protect landowners’ royalties in oil and gas leases from attempts to deduct post-production expenses.
Approved on a 14-12 vote, House Bill 2214 would:
-- Raise the minimum royalty payment to 15 percent of the gross proceeds received, unless the lease states otherwise;
-- Establish timetables for royalty payments and interest charges on unpaid royalties;
-- Prohibit royalty deductions for any severance taxes, applicable state fees or post-production costs;
-- Enable leases to be modified when procedures beyond routine cleaning and maintenance alter a well’s development.
"Pennsylvania’s landowners deserve fair value from the resources extracted from their properties," Rep. George said.
Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Minority Chair.Bills Would Protect Water In Gas Drilling Areas
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